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Book Review: Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatose is Darcie Little Badger’s debut novel. This speculative fiction/mystery book features 17-year-old Elatsoe (Ellie for short) who lives in an America that has vampires and fae folks. She can raise the dead, a skill passed on from generations of Lipan Apache. She investigates the murder of her cousin while accompanied by the ghost of her pet dog, Kirby, her family, and her friend.

Ellie is not allowed to raise the human dead as they can return in monstrous forms which usually harm the living. She can raise dead animals and her dead childhood springer spaniel, Kirby, is her companion. The story revolves around the death of her cousin, Trevor, which is termed as a suicide. Ellie and her parents believe that it is murder as Trevor has a wife and a child. They travel to Willowbee, Texas to investigate. She encounters vampires, mysterious doctors, strange histories, and her own strengths and weaknesses, in her quest to bring Trevor’s killers to justice. Justice plays an important role in this story, as the reader can see how difficult it can be to get justice if you are in the minority.

One thing that I enjoyed is the portrayal of Ellie’s asexuality. She is not interested in love and relationships and this is treated as a matter of fact and not something that she will grow out of. Her best friend, apart from Kirby, is Jay, her male classmate who also has faint magical powers. Both are not romantically linked and I enjoyed their friendship, especially their conversations and the way they help each other.

I loved Ellie as a character. She is fearless, aware of her power, loves comic books, can raise dead animals, and loves animals. Family also plays a significant role in this story: Ellie has wonderful parents who guide, and help her and lets her be independent; Ellie is also connected to her ancestor, her great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother who raised a woolly mammoth and protected her people; Trevor’s family who are supported by Ellie and her parents; and Jay and his family who help out Ellie.

I enjoyed this whimsical serious book and the illustrations by Rovina Cai are beautiful. Speculative fiction is not my usual genre but this is a must-read if you love dogs, a wonderful protagonist, magic, and mystery.

Rashmila likes to read books by/about women/people of color. She prefers fiction to reality. A dog parent and word ninja, she volunteers for non-profits and is multilingual. Favorite genre- contemporary literary fiction.

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